The Akashic Mysteries
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The Akashic Mysteries

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"Akashic Mysteries Push Boundaries of Musical Comfort"

By Steve Wildsmith



It sounds more like the plot to a new series on the Sci Fi Channel rather than the biography of a band -- interdimensional portals and ancient manuscripts and other worlds that can make a man disappear.

If it sounds rather vague and cryptic, or even a little disconcerting, that's OK -- it's supposed to. Because that's how William Blount High School grad Anthony Karnowski and his bandmates in The Akashic Mysteries like their music -- unorthodox and outside the realm of the traditional framework of the typical song.

"One of the things that we're really shooting for is to push ourselves," Karnowski told The Daily Times this week. "We want to make sure it's not only interesting for the listener, but that it's also fun for us, too. We don't want to make it difficult for the sake of being difficult, but we do believe in challenging the listener as much as challenging ourselves.

"We get really bored with the same old pop crap. I like to listen to music that makes me sit back and ask, 'What the hell just happened there? Do I like this? I'm not sure if I do or not.' If you have to work to like something, it's better music, in my opinion, because it sticks with you and becomes a part of who you are."

It's what's known as avant-garde music, and East Tennesseans will get a big dose of it next month, when the inaugural Big Ears Festival takes place in Knoxville. It's music outside of the mainstream -- in the case of The Akashic Mysteries, it's a synergy of jazz and electronic soundscapes and sonic experimentation.

"First and foremost, we try to let the music dictate what's going to happen," he said. "A lot of times, when you're working in pop music, you're following a formula -- you come up with a verse, and then you need a chorus, and then you come up with a bridge, and soon. We try to let the songs steer us, because we believe the process of making a song is where you find art -- not in the final product.

"It's all a matter of experimenting with what sounds cool and what doesn't. Maybe paying that trashcan sounds cool and maybe it doesn't, but we're going to try it. It's about experimentation and trying to push things a little bit, to find ways of making music that maybe aren't the most orthodox."

Karnowski was born and raised in Blount County, but he didn't grow up with an ear for avant-garde music -- as a kid, he listened to grunge and Led Zeppelin before discovering a band called Mr. Bungle that opened his ears to other possibilities.

"It had a little bit of melody and a pop aspect to the music, but it introduced me to styles that I hadn't listened to before," he said. "That got me interested in trying to get into other things."

A couple of years out of high school, Karnowski was introduced to his longtime musical collaborator and Akashic Mysteries bandmate Ron Hubbard when Karnowski was invited to play drums for local band the Wicked Cow People. At the time, the band was in the sunset of its illustrious East Tennessee career, having played various bars and clubs around downtown and "The Strip" since the late 1980s. Karnowski was the eighth and final drummer for the band, but he and Hubbard would play together in other projects -- including Citizen X, a precursor to Akashic Mysteries.

(Karnowski's also performed with the Downing-Harris Band and as part of Leslie Woods and Dark Mountain Orchid, which also featured his Akashic Mysteries bandmate Sean O'Connell.)

"Citizen X was the same sort of idea, and it always surprised me at how well it went over," Karnowski said. "We're trying to go a little bit more toward the art end of it with this project than we used to -- for example, we're going to incorporate a video projector and sync up what we're doing with that -- but it's the same idea musically.

"It's always kind of surprised me at how well-received it's been. The first time we played, I expected to leave covered in orange peels, but people were coming in off of the street saying, 'Wow, that sounds really cool; I haven't heard anything like that before."

For the fence-sitters unsure if Saturday's show at 4620 Reinvented in Bearden will be something they can grasp, Karnowski says this -- the band doesn't throw listeners in the deep end without a flotation device. In this case, it's melody.

"We make sure there's some form of melody there -- so that if there are portions of the songs that might make you uncomfortable, there's something afterward that pulls you back in and makes you feel safe," he said. "It's all basically just a chance to flex our muscles. We practice a lot, and we're trying to be great instrumentalists as well. We do want that kind of elitist approach, but not so much that we turn people off.

"I think the best way for people to make that leap is really try to open up to this style of music. I think, for all art but especially music, that to experience something outside of what you're used to, you have to come to it with an open mind." - Maryville Daily Times


Discography

The Akashic Mysteries - EP

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Bio

The term The Akashic Mysteries refers to a collection of ancient manuscripts first discovered in 1903 by a man named Marcus York.

A failed neophyte of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in London, York was cast out of that society when his brashness and ineptitude became seen as threats to the secrets and reputation of the organization.

Disgraced, York buried himself in his job as a custodian at the British Museum. He made several discoveries while sorting the ancient items deep within the museum's vaults. The most important of which were five large tomes that weren't listed on any of the inventory sheets.

Careful examination of the manuscripts revealed they were penned in an early form of sanskrit. From his studies in college and of the occult, he was able to understand very little of what was written. But that tiny fraction was enough to cause him immense excitement. They seemed to speak of a world that existed between all others. A place that was everywhere and nowhere. Everything and nothing. This world was called Akasha.

But that was only the beginning. York's broken understanding of the book hinted at things that sent his mind reeling. With barely a thought to the consequences, he stole the books from the Museum and immediately packed his few belongings. The next day he boarded a ship bound for America in order to find an old college friend from Oxford.

That friend was named Jonathan Bishop. Raised in India by his anthropologist parents, Bishop spoke Indian as well as English, and his understanding of sanskrit was impressive. After graduating from Oxford in 1895, he moved to Boston where he owned and operated a successful bookstore with his wife, Mary, and their children Robert and Susanna. Bishop welcomed his old friend with open arms, giving him a place to stay and food to eat.

Almost immediately upon his arrival, York presented his findings to Bishop. The two had always shared an intense interest in the possibility of magic, and York was impatient to start. Together they spent hours hunched over the manuscripts, painstakingly translating each line with as much accuracy as possible. Both men kept detailed journals during this time, believing they were on the verge of a discovery that could have one of the largest impacts on history ever recorded.

Once the task of translating the ancient manuscripts was finished, all of the information was compiled into a single volume which the two men titled The Akashic Magicks.

After only a few weeks spent studying the translations, York took it upon himself to perform the first of the rituals described within. He did so with fantastic results, conjuring a sort of inter-dimensional window through which he and Bishop caught glimpses of creatures more amazing than anything they could ever have imagined. Both men tried their hand at describing the creatures in their journals, but most of what they wrote was contradictory and confusing.

Overconfident in his initial success, York moved to perform the second ritual within hours of completing the first. In his haste, he missed a very small, but vital, detail as he was preparing the room. His mistake was disastrous.

The ritual began much as the first. Bishop stood in the corner acting as a witness, and York took position in the middle of the room, in the center of a large circle he'd drawn. It was this circle that Bishop would later blame for the mishap. Or, rather, this almost circle.

York was able to conjure the small window again, but this time it sputtered and crackled with a strange energy. It grew more intense with the passing seconds and both York and Bishop began to panic. Within the span of a few heartbeats, the portal imploded. York was sucked inside just before it vanished.

The stink of sulfur burned Bishop's nostrils as he collapsed, striking his head on the edge of a table. When he woke, calmer but no less shaken, he examined the circle York had been standing in and realized it wasn't continuous. The two ends of the chalk line forming the circle missed each other by about an eighth of an inch. That such a small mistake could yield such a damning result chilled Bishop's heart, and in silence he packed all of York's belongings, deciding to tell his family that his friend had been called away on sudden urgent business. He hated lying, but he was afraid Mary and the children wouldn't believe the truth.

Bishop kept all of the notes he and York had collected throughout the process of their translation, as well as the original manuscripts. Somewhere in their pages he hoped to find a clue as to what had happened. While never admitting it to himself, Bishop clung to a vague hope that he might one day be able to bring his friend back as well.

At first, however, Bishop feared opening the book. While he didn't know exactly what fate had befallen York, the mere possibility of being transported to another plane of existence terrified him. But as the days and weeks passed, his